After a turbulent few weeks, where do Johnson – and Starmer – really stand with the voters?

  • 3 May, 2022
  • Politics
  • Polling

This week’s local elections take place against the backdrop of leadership plots and follow perhaps the most politically turbulent few months since the Brexit wars. My new research, including an 8,000-sample poll and focus groups with 2019 Conservatives in different types of seat throughout the country, shows how voters have reacted to the recent controversies and where Boris Johnson, Keir Starmer and their parties now stand in relation to the voters.

Partygate: is it over yet?

Just under half of all voters (47%) including nearly one in five 2019 Tories, said they thought “breaking the rules is a very serious matter, and Boris Johnson should resign”. This included more than 3 in 10 (31%) of those who switched from Labour to the Conservatives at the 2019 election.

Three in ten, including just under half of 2019 Tories, agreed that “if lockdown rules were broken that is a serious issue, but there are more important things going on and Boris Johnson should be allowed to concentrate on them instead.” A further 15%, including 3 in 10 Conservatives from 2019, thought “these issues are trivial and far too much attention is being paid to them.”

In our focus groups, longer-standing Conservatives, including those who had never been Johnson enthusiasts, often argued that it was time to move on. First-time Tories in “red wall” seats were on the whole more critical – perhaps because they were the most surprised and disappointed. They had thought of him as a maverick but not a liar or a lawbreaker, and some believed the episode showed him to be part of an elite that looked down on them rather than – as they had felt in 2019 – on their side against the political establishment.

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